Movie Review: Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

I took a break from Swedish films for a bit, but now I’m back, ready to continue this Summer of the Swedes thing I’m doing. So let’s go.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “Borg vs. McEnroe”.

Famous tennis players Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) have a bit of an ongoing rivalry, both at the top of their game, both well known. And soon this rivalry might come to a head in the 1980 Wimbledon tournament. However, the movie is not just one long tennis match. It jumps back and forth in time a lot, showing us the upbringing of these men, as well as giving us a lot of their issues relating to their present situation. It’s very much a character study of these two complex and honestly fucked up individuals. And for the most part I found myself quite engaged by it, as the writing does give a lot of nuance to proceedings. It’s not a pure “hero/villain” or “adoration of giants” narrative, this shows that none of these guys are perfect. The story does step into a fair bit of the trappings that can be found within the biopic genre, and the pacing can be a little wonky in the first half, but overall I do still think the story works here thanks to some of the nuances within the writing.

The characters in this are layered, and overall just quite interesting. Sverrir Gudnason plays Björn Borg, a seasoned tennis player with multiple world titles under his belt. However, while this skill and fame is something people look up to, he is a much more tragic and meticulous individual, his mind isn’t all joy and tennis wins. I don’t know how else to explain it, the dude’s a fascinating person. And Gudnason is great in the role, giving a very reserved but still nuanced performance. Next is Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe, Borg’s rival. He too carries a lot of emotional baggage, which we do find out about through the movie. And he is quite a compelling character, with LaBeouf giving what might be a career best performance. We also get supporting work from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Scott Arthur, Ian Blackman, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

Unlike most movies, which have one composer, this one has four. Vladislav Delay, Jon Ekstrand, Carl-John Sevedag, and Johan Struck all contributed in some way to the score here. And despite there being so many names attached to it, the music is surprisingly coherent, giving us an intriguing blend of traditional orchestral elements with some electronic mixing to give it an intriguing and emotionally resonant sound that works pretty well within the movie. There’s also a few licensed tunes used throughout, and they work alright too.

“Borg vs. McEnroe” was directed by Janus Metz, who I think did a really good job with it. He knows how to really get you in the minds of the characters, all without losing the wider scope of the scene around them, giving us a good look at the full situation. This is further helped out by Niels Thastum’s slick cinematography, along with the spectacular editing from Per Kirkegaard and Per Sandholt. In terms of the technical craft, this movie is terrific.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 63/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While it does fall into some biopic trappings at times, “Borg vs. McEnroe” is still a damn fine character drama. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/editing. Time for my final score. *Smacks ball*. My final score for “Borg vs. McEnroe” is an 8,77/10. So it’s certainly worth buying.

My review of “Borg vs. McEnroe” is now completed.

SPORTSBALL, WOO!

Movie Review: Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007)

Life is fucking complicated. That’s it, that’s our intro.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Stuart: A Life Backwards”.

Aspiring writer Alexander Masters (Benedict Cumberbatch), through working with homeless people, meets Stuart (Tom Hardy), a homeless alcoholic with a traumatic past. And we follow the two as their lives evolve because of their unlikely friendship. This is a fascinating little drama, and I must say that I found myself enraptured by the story here. Now, the film’s structure isn’t exactly unique, it’s pretty straightforward in that regard. But it still feels quite fresh thanks to its fascinating subject and nuanced writing. It can often be quite heavy and unflinching when revealing what’s been going on in Stuart’s life, which might not be the most fun to watch… but man, it really adds to the experience. The story here is nuanced, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and simply great.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, fascinating, and feel very real. Tom Hardy plays Stuart, the eponymous character. He is an alcoholic with a history of violence and drug usage. I won’t go into specifics, but it’s interesting to see the kind of personal journey Stuart goes through here. They really pull no punches with it all. And Tom Hardy is absolutely fantastic in the role, probably giving the best performance I’ve seen from him. Next we have Benedict Cumberbatch as Alexander, the man who more or less serves as the film’s narrator. He goes through a little bit of a personal arc too after he meets/befriends Stuart, and it’s pretty compelling, with Cumberbatch giving a damn good performance. We also get some supporting work from people like Nicola Duffett, Candis Nergaard, Trevor Sellers, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Rob Lane, and it was good. It’s not one of those scores that you’re gonna find yourself humming along to it, as it relies less on melody and more on heavy ambient sounds. But that’s okay, because it fits incredibly well within the movie, adding to the emotion of a lot of scenes.

Based on the book of the same name by Alexander Masters, “Stuart: A Life Backwards” is a made-for-tv movie co-produced by BBC and HBO, and was directed by David Attwood. And I think Attwood did a good job with it, really giving the movie a sort of fly on the wall feel to proceedings. There’s nothing flashy and movie-ish about his directing here, it really has a grounded and almost documentary-esque feel.

“Stuart: A Life Backwards” isn’t always easy to watch, but it is still one hell of a good drama. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Stuart: A Life Backwards” is a 9,78/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Stuart: A Life Backwards”.

This movie kinda broke me.

Movie Review: White Boy Rick (2018)

Don’t do crimes.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “White Boy Rick”.

Detroit, the 1980s. Teenager Richard Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) comes from a broken home. But soon he finds himself on quite an interesting rise, as he starts getting involved both as an FBI informant and a drug trafficker. So now we have our crime-drama. The premise of it all I find highly intriguing, and there are some decent moments and ideas going on throughout the movie. But looking at the package as a whole, it feels quite underwhelming, with the script, while not bad, feels severely underwritten. The writer’s should’ve probably done another draft or two to truly flesh out a lot of the storytelling, because as it stands, it doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights it sets out for. And this makes it often feel a lot more boring and uninteresting than one would want a fascinating premise like this to be.

Much like the story, the characters in this story suffer due to the undercooked script. I can see what the team were going for with all of them, but they never quite get far enough to make ’em that compelling. Richie Merritt plays Richard Wershe Jr, the young man at the center of the story. He’s the closest we get to a compelling character, as he gets the biggest arc of the bunch (probably due to his status as “protagonist”). And Merritt is okay in the role. Next we have Matthew McConaughey as Richard Wershe Senior, the father of our main character. He’s a bit of a hick, while also trying to be a decent dad. As said before about other things: Good idea, mediocre execution. At least McConaughey gives a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Eddie Marsan, and more, all doing pretty well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Max Richter, and it was really good. Richter’s a talented composer, and he managed to bring some really compelling synth/piano goodness to the soundscape of this movie. It manages to take scenes that are mediocre at best, and manages to make them alright. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work fine I guess.

“White Boy Rick” was directed by Yann Demange, and I think he did an okay job with it. There are scenes in the movie that I think are really well directed, but then there are also scenes that I feel are a bit drab in execution. Again, it’s kind of a mixed bag in execution, which unfortunately really brings me out of the experience. There are scenes where Demange’s directing truly shines, and I applaud those moments. But there are times where it dips too, which is a shame.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 59% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 59/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,4/10.

“White Boy Rick” has some decent elements to it, but in the end is a disappointment. It has an undercooked story, less than compelling characters, good performances, really good music, and okay directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “White Boy Rick” is a 4,78/10. So despite some bright spots, I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “White Boy Rick” is now completed.

Mustache McConaughey.

Movie Review: Bad Education (2020)

I am so thankful for HBO existing over here in Sweden. This means I got to watch this movie the day after it aired in the United States. Yes, I am bragging. Not as an insult to those who can’t watch it, but just because I’m happy over this luck I have. Anyhow, review time.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “Bad Education”.

Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is the superintendent of the Roslyn school district in the state of New York. He’s beloved by all, always taking time to assist colleagues and students, being a real beacon of hope and success. But as we follow him through the movie, we start to find out that he and his colleagues may have some shady, monetary dealings going on. I really enjoyed the story here, as it takes a very fly-on-the-wall approach to its storytelling. While it makes clear that some of the shady shit going on isn’t okay, it doesn’t necessarily take a side and say that anyone here is an outright bad person, instead just presenting the facts, pimples and shiny smiles alike, allowing the viewer to take their own stance on things. It also has an interesting tone, more often than not going for a more darkly comedic approach rather than straight drama, which I think really adds some extra flavor to proceedings. It’s an interesting story told in a nuanced and engaging way.

The characters are flawed, colorful, layered, and just overall quite interesting. Hugh Jackman plays Frank Tassone, the charismatic superintendent at the center of the story. He’s friendly, charming, coming off as the perfect man to lead the charge in getting a school district to the top. But as we soon find out, he may or may not have a few secrets of his own. Hugh Jackman is excellent in the role, giving a relatively subdued performance where you can read every little emotion and thought in his eyes. Next we have Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin, Frank’s colleague, and also the person who keeps tabs on the economy in the school(s). And as you might expect from that description and the fact that she’s played by Allison Janney, she’s quite an intriguing presence in the story. And Janney is great in the role. I love her chemistry with Jackman as well, they are a lot of fun together. Next we have Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel, a student at one of the schools in Frank’s district. She’s a bright young lady, working as a journalist for the school paper. She’s one of the more interesting supporting players here as she gets plenty to do, and Viswanathan does a really good job in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Ray Romano, Rafael Casal, Annaleigh Ashford, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Michael Abels, and it was good. It has a bit of a classic vibe, leaning mainly on string-based arrangements, with the occasional woodwind to back it up. And I think it works well for what happens in the movie. There’s also one or two licensed songs used throughout, and they decently well too.

Based on the article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker, “Bad Education” was written by Mike Makowsky and directed by Cory Finley. And I must say that I am impressed by that side of the movie. There’s a slickness to it all. Finley really gives scenes a nice flow, you can tell that he is in full control of the situations, giving us directing that really made the movie have an interesting and engaging vibe.

This movie has so far been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10.

“Bad Education” is a really well made biopic that tells a really interesting tale. The story’s really good, the characters are interesting, the performances are great, the music’s good, and the writing/directing is great. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bad Education” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bad Education” is now completed.

Stay in school, kids. Even if shady shit could be going on.

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

As a self-proclaimed fan of this director, you’d have thought I’d gotten to this movie sooner. But sometimes life is a bit more unpredictable than that, Skipper.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dunkirk”.

1940, World War 2 is going on. British, French, and Belgian forces have been surrounded by the Germans, stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk. And we follow people on the various fronts as they try to sort this situation out or simply survive. Simple setup, good setup… but there’s something about the overall narrative that just didn’t fully click for me. I wasn’t ever bored, and I was invested in what was going on… so why didn’t it ever click fully for me? It’s so close to reaching the greatness status, and yet something feels like it’s missing. There are some fucking terrific moments of tension and drama throughout, and they are really effective. But there’s something about the connecting thread that just never crossed that final line for me. Again, the plot here is pretty good, if not quite on the level it could be.

This movie doesn’t exactly have the deepest characters ever, but I still knew enough about them that I could at least somewhat care about them as chaos happened around them. Sure, I couldn’t really tell you anything about them, but I could still see them, recognize them, and know who they were in relation to the narrative (the soldier boy, the boatman, the pilot, etc.). But what I can say is that all the actors are terrific in their respective roles. Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, James Bloor, Mark Rylance, Barry Koeghan, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and many more, they all did a great job.

The score for the movie was composed by Hans Zimmer, and mother of god, this man can do no wrong. His score has a way of generating genuine suspense, blending ear-grinding strings, heavy brass, ominous synthesizers, and even a ticking clock. The score maintains a rising sense tension throughout, and it’s simply spectacular.

“Dunkirk” was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, one of my favorite directors. And he did a damn job with it all. While Zimmer’s score carried a lot of weight in terms of building suspense, Nolan of course brought a lot to that too, with a lot of clever camerawork that really made the soldier just feel small, like they’re just a minor cog in the machinery of war… like they could be taken out all of a sudden, which creates some really good tension. And when combined with Hoyte van Hoytema’s amazing cinematography, you get some truly breathtaking sequences.

This movie has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 94/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10. The movie won 3 Oscars in the categories of Best film editing, Best sound editing, and Best sound mixing. It was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best cinematography, Best original score, and Best production design.

While I don’t really love it as much as a lot of people, I still think “Dunkirk” is a damn fine movie. It has a pretty good plot, okay characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dunkirk” is an 8,62/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Dunkirk” is now completed.

Am I gonna get in trouble for not giving this movie a perfect score? Should I barricade my house?

Series Review: Invisible Heroes (2019)

History is full of interesting situations. Some get adapted, some remain untouched. So let’s talk about one I hadn’t heard about before.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Invisible Heroes”.

1973. Finnish diplomats Tapani Brotherus (Pelle Heikkilä) and Ilkka Jaamala (Ilkka Villi) find themselves located in Chile, trying to save the lives of many people during a massive coup started by the anti-socialist military. As we go through the series, we see all kinds of parties that are involved in this situation, from the diplomats, to resistance fighters, to international politicians, and how all their actions affect not only the overall plot… but each other’s plans too. And it is absolutely riveting. I have a soft spot for political dramas/thrillers, so this already had my attention during the first few minutes. Luckily for me, it managed to hold that for all six episodes. It’s less of a “Jack Ryan” type of thriller where it’s all about actions, but more about the people involved, making decisions to do something. And the way that all their various schemes intersect makes for some really compelling tv.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall just really interesting. Pelle Heikkilä (hey-key-leh, if you need help with pronunciation) plays Tapani Brotherus, a Finnish diplomat and family man/our main-main character. He’s generally a good man, wanting to always help everyone and be a decent dude, do what’s right. But what makes that even more interesting is seeing his ideology get clashed with at every turn due to the intentions of other parties. And Heikkilä is great in the role. Next we have Ilkka Villi as Ilkka Jaamala, Brotherus’ colleague. He’s a bit more skeptical to some of Brotherus’ actions, looking at things a bit more practically, while still generally wanting the same things as his colleague. And Villi is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Sophia Heikkilä, Aksa Korttila, Mikael Persbrandt, Juan Cano, Sönke Möhring, Néstor Cantillana, Cristián Carvajal, Paola Lattus, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Timo Hietala, and I thought he did a good job with it. It does a good job fitting the Chilean setting while also creating the right emotions for the politically driven drama. ’tis good.

Based on a true story, “Invisible Heroes” was written by Mika Kurvinen, Tarja Kylmä, and Manuela Infante, with directing handled by Mika Kurvinen & Alicia Scherson. And the craft in this show is stellar. The creators manage to create a show that can put the viewer on the edge of their seat with very few actual means, because they zero in on the importance of these people and how they act in this overwhelming situation. Yes, there are violent situations in this show (all of which are tense and unsettling), but they are never the sole focus of the show, and come in at just the right times. And to complement the great directing, we have some really good looking cinematography done by Harri Halonen.

This show doesn’t exist on most of the sites I use. But on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Invisible Heroes” is one of the better Scandinavian productions I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Invisible Heroes” is a 9,72/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Invisible Heroes” is now completed.

These guys aren’t invisible, I can see them right there, on my screen. False advertising, 0/10.

Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Good grief, that title stylization is such a double-edged sword. Looks neat, and is a great piece of wordplay… but god damn, it is a pain to keep in mind when writing it out. Oh well, that’s all the time we’re spending on that, let’s get into the review.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “BlacKkKlansman”!

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is a young, black police officer in the 70s. He’s an ambitious young man, looking to make a real difference. And one way he intends to do this is by starting an undercover operations to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan with the help of one of his colleagues (Adam Driver). So now we have our quite unique story setup… and good god damn, I loved seeing how it unfolded. What makes it work so well is how impressively they balance tones. On one hand, it’s an undercover cop movie featuring one of the most horrible organizations in the worlds, which is very serious. But then they also acknowledge the bizarreness of a black man making an attempt to enter the Ku Klux Kunts, and have a bit of fun with that idea. So it manages to both put me on the edge of my seat with some of the darker aspects, and have me smiling at some of the more lighthearted and fun moments. It’s also remarkably fast-paced. The movie has a 135 minute runtime, but I never felt that, it moved at a brisk pace that kept it from getting dull. It doesn’t rush through things though, when it needs to slow down and soak in a moment, it does that. But yeah, it’s well paced and well written and highly entertaining.

The characters here are flawed, nuanced, colorful, and overall just quite interesting. John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, the young cop at the center of this story. He’s smart, highly determined, but also a bit of an underdog considering he’s like the only black officer in the department. And he’s one of the more uniquely compelling protagonists of recent years. And Washington is fantastic in the role. We then have Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman, Stallworth’s colleague who joins in on this batshit undercover operation. He’s a bit torn between some various things we learn about him throughout the movie, and it makes him quite fascinating to follow. And Driver is fantastic in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Laura Harrier, Robert John Burke, Michael Buscemi, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Paul Walter Hauser, Topher Grace, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for “BlacKkKlansman” was composed by Terence Blanchard, and it was great. There’s a consistent theme that gets woven throughout various tracks, making for a consistent emotional quality while still giving it a few different spins. There are of course a few unique tracks as well, and they are very good too. There’s also a few licensed tracks used throughout, and those work quite well in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has good music.

Based on a book by Ron Stallworth, “BlacKkKlansman” was directed by Spike Lee. And he did a great job, he really brought his A-game here, giving it a fierce energy that makes it stand out among so many movies in recent years. His direction manages to capture the broadness of this whole operation while never sacrificing the intimacy with the characters. And this makes it absolutely electrifying. And Chayse Irvin’s cinematography is stunning, complementing the storytelling wonderfully. There’s also a surprising amount of comedy throughout the movie, and it’s very funny. It helps to digest some of the bizarre and darkly uncomfortable aspects of this story.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best adapted screenplay. It was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best original score, Best director, Best supporting actor (Driver), and Best film editing.

Despite it’s annoying-to-write title, “BlacKkKlansman” is a fantastic and highly unique bio-pic. It has a great plot, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, great directing/cinematography, and funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “BlacKkKlansman” is a 9,90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “BlacKkKlansman” is now completed.

This kind of stuff is why I love movies.

Movie Review: Last Breath (2019)

Hello and welcome to 2020, friends! To kick it off I decided to review something I haven’t looked at in a while: A documentary. The last time I did was in 2015. I don’t know why it took me this long to get around to it again, but I think we should stop dwelling on that and instead just get into this.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Last Breath”.

“Last Breath” is about a group of men who work with diving in the North Sea, doing maintenance on underwater structures. However, during this one dive, something goes wrong and one of them gets stuck down there with a very limited oxygen supply, forcing his colleagues to find a way to try and save him. The movie is partly interviews with the people who worked on this operation, mixed with recreations of what went on, as well as actual footage from the incident. Now, while this approach is simple and something we’ve seen before in other documentaries, I feel like it still works in this movie’s favor. It’s a simple story of a terrifying situation, so there’s no real need to complicate how it’s told. It’s simple, but effective. They get you invested in the people involved with some quick behind-the-scenes goofing from one of the crew members filming on the ship, and then the main incident happens. Now we have a scary setup that manages to retain good tension throughout the rest of the runtime. Yeah, it’s well told and I was utterly invested from start to end.

The music for the movie was composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan, and before we get to discussing this movie’s music, I just wanna go on a quick sidenote. It is so weird seeing his name again. Don’t think I’ve seen his name attached to a movie since 2012’s “Dredd”. Anyway, back to “Last Breath”. His music is very good. It has a solid mix of emotionally resonant strings, with some electronic flourishes at one or two points. Some might call it emotionally manipulative, I call it good.

“Last Breath” was directed by Richard da Costa and Alex Parkinson, and I think they did a good job with it. The way they mix old, real footage with recreations is pretty great, and while they stylistically look different due to differences in technology, they still make the transitions feel natural. And even taking the new footage on its own, it is really well handled. Especially in terms of cinematography, I thought that was fucking stunning. Kudos to Alistair McCormick for those good looking shots. But yeah, the way it all comes together is really well handled.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,7/10.

“Last Breath” may be simple in its approach, but it’s still a damn fine documentary that put me on the edge of my seat. It has an interesting story featuring some interesting people, its music is very good, and the way it is shot, edited, and directed is pretty damn great. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Last Breath” is a 9,67/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Last Breath” is now completed.

Kicking off 2020 on a high note.

Movie Review: Goodfellas (1990)

Yes, you got that right. I only now got to this “must watch” piece of cinema. Shut up.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “Goodfellas”.

As far back as he could remember, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) always wanted to be a gangster *brass music plays*. And throughout the movie we follow his rise within the mob, giving us all the ups and downs. And yes, we’ve seen this kind of shit in a bunch of movies before. But I don’t think I’ve seen it done this well before. The movie is two hours and twenty minutes long, but you never feel that runtime thanks to writing that is equal parts dramatically compelling and pure entertainment value. It crackles along at a good pace, while still presenting us with situations that last with the viewers, even after the credits have rolled. It doesn’t do the slow, methodical approach that “The Godfather” used, instead opting for a more popcorn-friendly style still rises above most basic gangster stories.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, colorful, entertaining, and just overall really interesting. Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, the man at the center of the story with dreams of being the next big gangster. His journey from small time crook to where he eventually ends up is quite fascinating, and he’s one of the most compelling protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of following in anything I’ve watched recently. And Liotta is great in the role. Next we have Lorraine Bracco as Karen, Henry’s wife. Seeing her journey alongside Henry is quite interesting, especially since she becomes a bit of a conflicted character that has a really interesting rapport with Henry and his story. And Bracco is great in the role. Next we have Joe Pesci as Tommy, Henry’s friend and a fellow gangster. He’s a very short-tempered guy who makes for a lot of unpredictable scenes, which is all I’ll say about him. And Pesci is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Tony Darrow, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

What’s interesting about the music in “Goodfellas” is that there is no typical score. No composer, no orchestra… jack shit. Instead there’s a lot of licensed music, mostly period accurate rock songs, that get used throughout to help set the mood and tell the story. And god damn it, the use of said songs here is fucking spectacular, partly because there’s a lot of music in there I genuinely like in general, but also because the director (and possibly editor) has a good fucking grasp of how to utilize a song throughout a scene.

Based on a book called “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi, the movie was co-written by Pileggi and Martin Scorsese, with Scorsese of course handling direction. And really, what else can I say that hasn’t been said before? This shit is immaculate. The blend of the writing and directing here creates a crackling energy that makes it an absolute blast to watch. Never does it feel dull. There are a few moments where it risks slipping into it, but then it picks up again, like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” ceritifcation. On Metacritic it has a score of 89/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,7/10 and is ranked #18 on the “Top 250” list. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best supporting actor (Pesci). It was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best supporting actress (Bracco), Best director, Best adapted screenplay, and Best film editing.

I don’t think I’m bringing anything new to the table when I say that “Goodfellas” is fucking rad. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Goodfellas” is a 9,88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Goodfellas” is now completed.

I see why people like this so much.

Movie Review: Blaze (2018)

Biopics are fascinating. They give us a glimpse into a real life individual’s personal life, while also trying to provide a couple hours of entertainment. And striking the right balance between fact and compelling drama can be tough. But some people manage it.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Blaze”.

The story follows the life and times of Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), a raggedy man with a talent for music. From his humble beginnings, and through the highs and lows, including his marriage to Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat), we get a good glimpse into Foley’s life. And I think that the plot here is really good. There are elements that we recognize from other biopics, but the way they’re used throughout “Blaze” feels fresh, due to the gentle and nuanced writing. It creates a fascinating tale that can be as heartbreaking as it is warmly nostalgic. The deliberately slow pace might prove a bit frustrating for some, but I thought it worked very well for the story here.

The characters here are flawed, nuanced, charming, and overall feel very real. Ben Dickey plays the titular musician. A likable man with a lot of tragic flaws. Seeing his journey as a character here is really fascinating, and I really grew to care about him. And Dickey is great in the role. Alia Shawkat plays Sybil Rosen, a woman and aspiring actress/writer that Blaze has a committed relationship with. The journey she has here, which really are the ups and downs of being with Blaze, is really interesting, and makes her an interesting and sympathetic character. And Shawkat is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Charlie Sexton, Josh Hamilton, Wyatt Russell, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As this is a biopic about a musician, it should be expected that one would hear a lot of songs from said artist throughout. You’d be correct in that assumption, you do hear a lot of Foley’s music here… and I love it. Not only because the music is incredibly well written, but also because the way it’s implemented in the storytelling is absolutely wonderful. So yeah, the music here is great.

Based on “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley” (bit of a mouthful) by Sybil Rosen, this movie was written by Ethan Hawke & Sybil Rosen, with Hawke also handling directing. And the craft here is wonderful. It has a warmness to it, and a willingness to just sit down and really get to know these characters, not always feeling the need to get to the next “big event”. Like I said in the story bit, the pacing is deliberately slow, and the direction embraces that and turns it into some truly compelling stuff. And the cinematography by Steve Cosens helps kind of give it all a nostalgic storybook feeling that really adds to the experience.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“Blaze” is a wonderful movie about a very interesting man. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Blaze” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Blaze” is now completed.

That was a nice experience.